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July 20-25: July 20 Monday: (St. Apollinaris, Bishop, Martyr) https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-apollinaris/ : Mt 12:38-42: 38 Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to him, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” 39 But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign; but no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so will the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41 The men of Nineveh will arise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. 42 The queen of the South will arise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the Wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here. USCCB video reflections: http://www.usccb.org/bible/reflections/index.cfm
The context: Since there had been many false prophets and false messiahs in the past, and since the pride and prejudice of the scribes and the Pharisees did not permit them to see the Messiah in Jesus, a “carpenter-from-Nazareth-turned-wandering-preacher,” these Jewish religious leaders demanded that Jesus should show some “Messianic” signs and miracles from their list. They would not believe that Jesus’ numerous miraculous healings were the Messianic signs foretold by their prophets.
Jesus’ negative response: Calling them an apostate generation who refused to believe in their own prophets and who denied the hand of God in the miracles Jesus had worked, Jesus warned them that they would be condemned on the Day of Judgment by the people of Nineveh and by the Queen of Sheba from the South. The pagan Ninevites had heard the voice of the Lord God in the prophet Jonah, had repented and had been spared. The Queen of Sheba had recognized God’s wisdom in King Solomon and had traveled to Israel to receive more of it. Nevertheless, Jesus gave the scribes and Pharisees “the sign of Jonah,” who had spent three days and three nights in the belly of the giant fish, the undeniable Messianic sign of his own Resurrection from the tomb on the third day after his death.
Life messages: 1) Let us recognize the God-given signs in our lives: Let us examine our conscience and see if we are able to see God’s presence in ourselves and in others, His hand behind the small and big events of our lives, and His provident care in our lives.
2) Let us open our ears to hear God’s message given to us through others and through nature. We should be able read God’s message in the Bible and adjust our lives accordingly.
3) Let us try our best to open our hearts to God and be receptive to His Spirit through our active participation in the liturgy, instead of looking for signs in weeping Madonnas, bleeding crucifixes and visionaries. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
July 21 Tuesday: (St. Lawrence of Brindisi, Priest, Doctor of the Church) https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-lawrence-of-brindisi/ : Mt 12:46-50: 46 While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. 48 But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” 49 And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother, and sister, and mother.” USCCB video reflections: http://www.usccb.org/bible/reflections/index.cfm
The context: As Jesus became a strong critic of the Jewish religious authorities, his mother and cousins came to take him to Nazareth by force, perhaps because they feared that he was “out of His mind,” and would be arrested and put to death. Jesus’ plain statement: Today’s Gospel episode seems to suggest that Jesus ignored the request of his mother and close relatives who had traveled a long distance to talk to him. But everyone in the audience knew how Jesus loved his mother and had taken care of her, working as a carpenter. Besides, Jesus’ plain answer, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it,” was indeed a compliment to his mother who always listened to the word of God and obeyed it. Jesus was declaring “Blessed are those who have heard and kept the word of God as she is faithfully doing” (Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, 58). Jesus was also using the occasion to teach the congregation a new lesson in their relationship with God. Being a disciple of Jesus, a Christian, means, first and foremost, being in a relationship – a relationship of love and unity with God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and with all who belong to God as His children. Jesus changes the order of relationships and shows us that true kinship is not just a matter of flesh and blood. God’s gracious gift to us is His adoption of us as His sons and daughters. This gift enables us to recognize all those who belong to Christ as our brothers and sisters. Our adoption as sons and daughters of God transforms all our relationships and requires a new order of loyalty to God and to His kingdom. Everyone who does the will of the Father, that is to say, who obeys Him, is a brother or sister of Christ, because he is like Jesus who fulfilled the will of his Father. [Brothers and sisters of Jesus: The Catholic Church teaches that Jesus did not have blood brothers and sisters. In the Hebrew and Aramaic languages, no special words existed for cousin, nephew, half-brother, or stepbrother; so, they used the word brother in all these cases. The Greek translation of the Hebrew texts used the word adelphos in these cases. In addition, other Gospel passages clarify these relationships between James, Joses, Judas, and Simon. James the Less and Joses were the sons of Mary the wife of Clopas (Tradition holds him as brother of Joseph) (Mk 15:40, Jn 19:25), and James the Less was also identified as “the son of Alphaeus” (Lk 6:15), a synonym of “Clopas.” James the Greater and John were the sons of Zebedee with a mother other than our Blessed Mother Mary (Mt 20:20ff). After the birth of our Lord, although the Gospels do not give us many details of His childhood, no mention is made of Mary and Joseph ever having other children. Never does it refer to the “sons of Mary” or “a son of Mary,” but only the son of Mary. By this time, St. Joseph has died. Since Jesus, the first born, had no “blood brother,” He entrusted Mary from the cross to the care of St. John, the Beloved Disciple.]
Life messages: 1) Let us remember that by Baptism we become the children of God, brothers and sisters of Jesus and members of the Heavenly family of the Triune God. Hence, we have the obligation of treating others with love and respect and of sharing our love with them by corporal and spiritual works of mercy. 2) We are also to be hearers as well as doers of the word of God as Mary was. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
July 22 Wednesday: (St. Mary Magdalene): https://blog.franciscanmedia.org/franciscan-spirit/topic/st-mary-magdalene Jn 20: 11-18: 11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb; 12 and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14 Saying this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not hold me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brethren and say to them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” 18 Mary Magdalene went and said to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her. USCCB video reflections: http://www.usccb.org/bible/reflections/index.cfm
The context: Today’s Gospel presents the great recognition scene in the New Testament when Mary Magdalene, at the tomb early in the morning of the Resurrection, was not able to recognize the Risen Jesus until he called her by name. Gradual recognition, or misunderstanding, as a stage on the path to belief and understanding, frequently occurs in the narratives of John’s Gospel. [See, for example, the conversations Jesus had with Nicodemus (ch. 3), and the Samaritan woman (ch. 4).] In today’s passage, we find it once again: Mary thought at first that Jesus was the gardener.
Mary Magdalene failed to recognize Jesus because of her false assumption that his body had been stolen. Her attention was concentrated on the empty tomb. Her tears of intense grief could also have blurred her vision. Once Mary had recognized Jesus, he gave her a message to be conveyed to his Apostles about His plan to leave them and ascend to his Father. Mary’s message to Jesus’ disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” became the basis and essence of later preaching and Christians’ witness-bearing. St. Thomas Aquinas said that one old lady (una vetera), might have more Faith than a host of learned theologians.
Life messages: 1) We can be open to experience the presence of the Risen Lord in our lives through our prayer, our Sacramental life and our meditative reading of the Bible. These all enable us to bear witness to the Risen Lord in our daily lives.
2) It is our powerful conviction of the Real Presence of the Risen Lord, both in the Eucharist and in our lives, which gives us the strength to fight temptations and to serve our brothers and sisters in corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
July 23 Thursday: (St. Bridget, Religious) https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-bridget/: Mt 13:10-17: 10 Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” 11 And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. 12 For to him who has will more be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 14 With them indeed is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah which says: `You shall indeed hear but never understand, and you shall indeed see but never perceive. 15 For this people’s heart has grown dull, and their ears are heavy of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should perceive with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and turn for me to heal them.’ 16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. 17 Truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it. USCCB video reflections: http://www.usccb.org/bible/reflections/index.cfm
The context: Jesus’ disciples wanted to know why Jesus spoke in parables to the common people but explained to his disciples the parables’ implicit and hidden meanings.
Reasons: Jesus gives two reasons for using parables. 1) The so-called intellectuals, like the scribes and the Pharisees, had closed their minds and hearts to his preaching. That is one of the reasons why Jesus started speaking to the common people with open minds and receptive hearts, using their simple language and telling them stories and parables based on their lives. 2) The secrets of God’s kingdom are meant for humble people with open minds and large receptive hearts, not for proud intellectuals who are closed to them.
Blessing: Then Jesus congratulates his apostles and the common people on their good fortune in seeing the long-awaited Messiah, hearing his words and experiencing his company.
Life message: 1) We are more blessed than Jesus’ first-century audience because we have his message in written form and his Presence in the Holy Eucharist, in the Holy Bible and in the praying community. Hence, let us read the Bible with open minds and welcoming, responsive hearts. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
July 24 Friday: (St. Sharbel Makhluf, Priest) https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-sharbel-makhluf/ : Mt 13:18-23: 18 “Hear then the parable of the sower. 19 When any one hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in his heart; this is what was sown along the path. 20 As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21 yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. 22 As for what was sown among thorns, this is he who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the delight in riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. 23 As for what was sown on good soil, this is he who hears the word and understands it; he indeed bears fruit, and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.” USCCB video reflections: http://www.usccb.org/bible/reflections/index.cfm
The context: Today’s Gospel passage gives us Jesus’ interpretation of the parable of the sower, seeds sown, and the yield depending upon the type of soil. This parable was intended as a warning to the hearers to be attentive, and to the apostles to be hopeful, about Jesus’ preaching in the face of growing opposition to Jesus and his ideas. The sower is God Who sows His word through the Church, parents, friends, and teachers. The seed sown is the high-yielding word of God which is “a sharp sword” (Is 49:2), “two-edged sword” (Heb 4:12), and “fire and hammer” (Jer 23:29).
Soil type and the yield: The hardened soil on the footpath represents people with minds closed because of laziness, pride, prejudice or fear. The soil on flat rock pieces represents emotional types of people who go after novelties without sticking to anything and are unwilling to surrender their wills to God. “I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 11:19). The soil filled with weeds represents people addicted to evil habits and evil tendencies and those whose hearts are filled with hatred, jealousy or the greed that makes them interested only in acquiring money by any means and in enjoying life in any way possible. The good and fertile soil represents well-intentioned people with open minds and clean hearts, earnest in hearing the word and zealous in putting it into practice. Zacchaeus, the sinful woman, the thief on Jesus’ right side, St. Augustine, St. Francis of Assisi, and St. Francis Xavier, among others, fall into this category of the good soil.
Life message: Let us become the good soil and produce hundred-fold yields by earnestly hearing, faithfully assimilating and daily cultivating the word of God we have received, so that the Holy Spirit may produce His fruits in our lives. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
July 25 Saturday: (St. James the Apostle) https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-james/ : Mt 20:20-28: 20 Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to him, with her sons, and kneeling before him she asked him for something. 21 And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Command that these two sons of mine may sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” 22 But Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” 23 He said to them, “You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” 24 And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers. 25 But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. 26 ..28 USCCB video reflections: http://www.usccb.org/bible/reflections/index.cfm
The context: Today we celebrate the feast of James, the Apostle. James was the son of Zebedee the fisherman and Salome, the sister/cousin of Jesus’ mother, and the brother of John, the Evangelist and Apostle. James was one of Jesus’ inner circle of three disciples who had the privilege of witnessing the Transfiguration, the raising to life of the daughter of Jairus, and Jesus’ agony in Gethsemane. He is in the first three of every list of the apostles in the four Gospels. Jesus called James and John “boanerges,” or “sons of thunder,” probably because of their volatile character and high ambitions. They once offered to use Jesus power to send fire down on the Samaritan village which had refused Jesus permission to cross through their village because he was going to Jerusalem. Jesus rejected the offer. Later, James was known as James the Greater to distinguish him from James the Less, the son of Clopas, who was leader of the Church in Jerusalem and wrote the Epistle that bears his name. James the Greater was probably the first apostle martyred — by Herod in 44 AD, in his attempt to please the Jews (Acts 12:1-3).
The Gospel episode: The incident described in today’s Gospel shows us how ambitious, far-sighted and power-hungry James and his brother John were in their youth with their impulsive and hot-tempered Galilean blood. They asked their mother to ask Jesus to make them the second and third in command when Jesus established his Messianic Kingdom after ousting the Romans. They must have been shocked when their request prompted Jesus to make a third prediction of his passion and death, promising them a share in his sufferings. Jesus told the apostles that it was only the spirit of service which would make his disciples “great,” because he himself had come “not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” St. James is the patron saint of Spain.
Life messages: 1) The leaders in Jesus’ Church must be the servants of all as Mary was (“Behold the handmaid of the Lord”). That is why Pope is called “the servant of the servants of God” and the priesthood of our pastors is called “ministerial priesthood.” 2) Our vocation as Christians is to serve others sacrificially, with agápe love in all humility, without expecting anything in return, and our spiritual leaders must be humble, loving, selfless and serviceable, just as Jesus was, for our Lord loved and served us all Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20